Juneteenth: Long Time Coming (But, Is It Too Late?)

Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2021

Text by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2021

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Juneteenth: Long Time Coming (But, Is It Too Late?)

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“By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day, and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we have to travel.” – President Joseph R. Biden signing The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act at The White House, June 17th, 2021 [1]

At the June 17th, 2021 White House bill signing ceremony making Juneteenth [2] a federal holiday, President Joseph R. Biden and Vice-President Kamala D. Harris, as well as members of both houses of Congress were joined by an elegant elder dressed in white sitting in attendance upon the front row for this event.  

Known as Grandmother of the Juneteenth Movement, Texas native Opal Lee [3] has been on a long quest to get the federal recognition for getting Juneteenth made a national holiday. As part of galvanizing a national campaign to get Juneteenth to become a national holiday, this passionate and persistent woman organized a walk from her home state of Texas to Washington, D.C. to ring the mighty bell of freedom on the events of over 150 years ago. 

“I’m hoping that Juneteenth will not just be about festivals, but that it will be about uplifting each other.” – Opal Lee [4] educator and activist

Opal Lee’s focused mission on keeping the flame of the promise and premise of honoring Juneteenth’s meaning for all Americans came to a fruitful destination on her journey over these many years to be among the luminaries at the White House signing ceremony. 

“To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to continue toward that promise because we’ve not gotten there yet. The Vice President and I and our entire administration and all of you in this room are committed to doing just that.” – President Joseph R. Biden signing The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act at The White House, June 17th, 2021 

We can take in the events of celebrating Juneteenth from sea to shining sea and see it as a laudable moment of unity. And, yes, the banner of sisterhood, brotherhood, and human-hood flourishes beneath a blue sky and glistening sun. 

President Biden’s words and actions are symbols of good faith in placing an olive branch out to his fellow Americans for unity. Yet, we live in the Divided Territories of Amnesia; where reality of the present and reckoning with the past are in a tug of war with the future. 

Happy Juneteenth! Hallelujah!

Now, what?

A new national holiday has been placed onto the books and all is well and as it should be in America. Or, is it?

A piece of paper is a piece of paper, is a piece of paper. Be it the Emancipation Proclamation [5], the 1965 Voting Rights Act, or even the Constitution of The United States Of America. Inked signature upon finest parchment is meaningless without implementation or enforcement backing up the ideals and goals laid out in any of those documents.

On June 19th, 1865 when 2,000 Union troops entered Galveston Bay, Texas; the implementation of the words written in the Emancipation Proclamation by enforcement were the action that freed the slaves. A proclamation [6] by General Gordon Granger of the Union Army enforced General Order No. 3. 

It wasn’t just a piece of paper that freed those human beings in Texas in 1865, but the physical presence of over 2,000 armed Union soldiers to make damn sure that insidious institution would crumble beneath the weight of their boots as they marched. 

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.[7] 

Martin Luther King Jr. has said time and time again that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. For those of us who concur with that, should continue to beat the drum of justice and march our tired soles on that arc to help the bend of that arc to remain justified and righteous. Without vigilance of raising our voices and moving towards a more perfect union, that arc can become ragged and diminished beneath the dust of dismissal and derision. 

Don’t stop! Won’t stop! March on! March strong! 

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [8]

Quilt of history has many patches woven into it; one thread is Juneteenth, another is Tulsa, and third is a throwback of today. 

Some want to forget history, or even rewrite it as it is happening in the moment. Whether it be from a level of duplicitous amnesia; which a certain clique of persons play the game of pretending things are not as they seem. Or, an oblivious amnesia; which is like the ‘Lily Belle’ or ‘Beauregard’ kind. As to this pair, I’ll get back to explaining them a little bit further on in this article.

Another thread in that quilt of America’s history is the Tulsa Massacre, which took place one hundred years ago to this exact year. I didn’t learn about this bit of history from history books in school, but from exploring past history on my own. 

In the early 1900’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the black community of Greenwood was known as ‘Black Wall Street’, due to the level of self sustainability by the citizens who owned businesses, lived and raised their families there.

One gem in the Greenwood district of Tulsa was the Stradford Hotel, owned by J.B. Stradford [9], who was the son of a Kentucky slave. Mr. Stradford, an Indiana University law graduate used his keen vision in real estate development with purchasing several land vacancies in Greenwood.  

As well as Mr. Stradford’s namesake establishment were a plethora of other African-American attorneys, doctors, tailors, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs of varied professions who called that community their home.

May 30th until June 1st, 2021, the prosperity and serenity of Greenwood were set aflame and destroyed by rumors, resentment, racist rage, and insidious inhumanity which targeted the black citizens whose ‘American dream’ descended into a terror which seemed unending. 

From the horror of 1921 to the present of 2021, only three souls have survived to speak witness to what they endured in testimony before a Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing in Congress on May 19th, 2021.

“I am seeking justice. “I am here asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921.” – Viola Fletcher, 107 year old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre [10] of May 1921 

Newsmakers of many stripes can commiserate and commemorate in locations of racism’s touchstones around the United States of America such as Tulsa, Oklahoma, never seeming to  respond with anything more than just powerful prose when the call for allowing survivors of the massacre of ‘Black Wall Street’ located in the Greenwood district to be made in some teensy way whole.

“We were laid refugees in our own country.” – Hughes Van Ellis, 100 year old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre [11] of May 1921, brother of Viola Fletcher, veteran of the United States Army

There are those who speak about a notion of uber-patriotism and how much they supposedly love this country more than any other person. They ramble on and on about their own figments of courageous intent. But, their chest thumping has such a hollow affect to it, when a man who served his country in an all-Black unit in the United States Army in defense of this country in World War II speaks on the reality of feeling to have to battle on two fronts when being a black man in America. It is an aspect which the black soldier has internally existed with from the seedlings of the American military to present. Now, I could take another avenue of getting into the segregationist history in the American military and that itself would lead me onto a long and lonesome highway all on its’ own. 

“I have waited so long for justice.” – Lessie Beddingfield Randle, 106 year old survivor of Tulsa Massacre [12] of May 1921

Those who survived the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 deserve far more than just wonderful words [13]  spoken by thoughtful people in high positions; as I along with others begin to nod our heads and applaud in unison of cheering in a respectful response to each of them, “Yeah! Yeah! You give good speech!”  

But, can any of you cut a check for the last three LIVING survivors of the Tulsa Massacre and place it in the palm of their hands before they are DEAD. Well, of course, after they are gone from this mortal earth, these same people in high positions can rely on this trio not being around anymore by saying, “Why bring up reparations now, when there are no survivors of the Tulsa Massacre?” 

NO check! But, YES speech!

Justice too late can be justice denied, for what remains may be less than that which is implied. In this case of a newly minted holiday, it might be a day of acknowledgement that leads not very far ahead. But, a few steps beyond where we have been. 

In this moment of reckoning with history, there should be some sort of blueprint for an accurate tallying of history.

“It seems that justice in America is always so slow, or not possible, for Black people. And we are made to feel crazy just for asking for things to be made right.” – Lessie Beddingfield Randle, 106 year old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre [14] of May 1921 

Some can obscure the reality lived by their fellow Americans of a different hue of humanity by just closing their eyes, closing their ears and burying their conscience in the bone-yard of manufactured persecution. 

Once Viola Fletcher, Hughes Van Ellis and Lessie Beddingfield Randle are no longer around, then maybe a fig leaf of gathering together a multi-year study on reparations for the descendants of those massacre victims might have an airing out. But, then again, when things are a long time coming, they usually don’t come along at all. 

Sparkle of amnesia flares up.

With the hullabaloo that is coming from opponents of critical race theory, it seems to me how obvious their problem is truly with ONLY one of those words. If it was critical WAR theory, then they’d be cool with that. 

In fact, every pre-schooler in America could be given their WAR cookies and milk right before naptime in class. Hmmm. 

Okay, enough of my snarkiness about the fake outrage from people who are just whipping up hysteria about something they can’t even explain when talking about it. But, it makes me shake my head whenever I hear the conspiracy theorists who howl and moan that they are trying to save their children from the ‘horrors’ of learning about something outside of their own comfort zones. 

Critical race theory is an academic discipline, which means unless you are a five or six year old going for your Master Degree, your underage self can’t even comprehend the breadth and depth of history that takes an analytical look at the social and structural elements of racism in the United States of America.

Being blunt, I think it might just be a touch of Shakespeare’s axiom of ‘doth protest too much’ is the reason people are acting like Critical Race Theory is beyond a reasonable instrument in showing the vast complexity of past and present events in this country. 

This demonizing of the academic theory has even been drawn into the halls of Congress by Republicans during a military budget hearing before the House Armed Services Committee on June 23rd, 2021. 

To see a frat-boy Congressman who is under investigation for under-age sex trafficking preen and denounce a twisting aspect of what he thinks Critical Race Theory means when questioning two men who have served this country is the height of bizarreness.  

The only tour Rep. Matt Gaetz from Florida has served so far is one of a whole lotta doody (not duty) when he’s pretending to be this super-patriot saving America from the scourge of what he calls ‘the liberal left’. 

As for his future, well maybe he’ll be serving another kind of duty in cleaning toilets with a toothbrush when he’s under the state’s lock and key. 

Republicans are quick to do the warrior spiel and tout their love of country and freedom when that C-Span camera is rolling. But, the camera can also capture the eloquent clap-back from the most unlikely sources. 

“So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive [15] that we are accusing the United States military, general officers, commissioned and noncommissioned officers of being quote ‘woke,’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.” – General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, United States of America

Seated at the table with General Milley was the first African-American serving as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who also responded to the thinly veiled besmirching of the military from Gaetz and other Republican members of the Armed Services Committee. 

“I trust my leadership from top to bottom that they will give me fair and balanced and unvarnished [16] input” – Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin

I wonder if Secretary Austin wasn’t so, hmm, how can I describe him…tall? Would that be the real reason why Gaetz was such a grouch to him? Maybe, it’s just a shade of cynicism I’m recognizing. 

With egg on his face, Rep. Matt ‘Florida Man’ [17] Gaetz had to sit there and take the answer that both men unapologetically gave him. 

“So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn [18] the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out.” – General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, United States of America

Instead of Rep. Matt Gaetz being so inflamed over one type of theory, he should shut his trap and do some reading. For one, I suggest he read Carl von Clausewitz’ “On War”, which comprehensively analyzes the nature, strategy, theory [19], and socio-political phenomenon of the decision of war. Furthermore, anyone worth their salt of respecting history has read and absorbed the 4th century masterpiece [20] written by Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”. I seriously doubt he would do a deep dive into either of these works, for there aren’t any glossy pages for him to drool over in either of these books.

Cunning and conniving their way through the political bloodstream are the hoaxsters and hucksters who are pumping the big lie filled with venomous, repercussions that will reverberate for many a day and coming year in the future.

Now, the snake’s tongue drips with equating [21] the scholarly research of critical race theory to the cross-burning, hate-filled, terror of the Klu Klux Klan. 

Just pump the lie like a bellow and toss in anything about race into the mix and boy, oh boy the backlash gets going full steam. 

And, of course those who want to believe or want to hide from the truth will just continue to drink that narcotic cocktail of amnesia and anesthetic. 

Is it compliance or is it just happenstance?

Duplicitous amnesia is the kind that is a putrid half and half. One part is being a well used instrument for self benefit with the second part of becoming pied pipers of leading lemmings, who crave direction; no matter how bat-crap crazy it is. 

In some ways, those who are dredged in duplicity aren’t as pernicious as persons who are whistling with clueless abandon. 

Oblivious amnesia comes from those who think history is just one of those things. You know, just happenstance that has been going on around them for all these years. 

Say a polite and gentle howdy to ‘Lily Belle’ and ‘Beauregard’.

With the way things are in the current time, I the name for her could have be ‘Karen’, but, I decided to go old school (or should I say Old South) with ‘Lily Belle’. As for his name, well, ‘Beauregard’ just fits past, present and future. 

It seems to me that every ‘Lily Belle’ and “Beauregard’ is under the consistent illusion that all is fine, bleached and right in this country. Of course, for them it is, as it always has been and remains. For them, no matter what happens, they’ll come out smelling like a rose. Maybe even a yellow rose of Texas. 

For every law which expands, there are the subsequent actions in law and practice which are constrictive. For every action, there is reaction.

Past is present as present is past. As for what comes in the future, we hold that in our hearts and hands. If we truly want to honor that which is from years ago, we have to be honest. Or, should I say ‘critical’. 

My history! Your history! American history is OUR history!  

Republicans are going around flapping their gums in saying that the ‘Left’ are not talking enough about America progressing forward from the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the racist past is pitiful.

My retort to them is that progress is not blindness to the sometimes fouled nature and history of this country. Oh yes, we have come far from the past. Of course, that is true. But, the United States of America is not whole in the present moment. 

“I fought for freedom abroad even though it was ripped away from me at home.” – Hughes Van Ellis, 100 year old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre of May 1921 and brother of Viola Fletcher

So, when a puissant politico who pays for his jollies via Venmo [22] spews his insurrectionist, conspiracy concocted bile over an academic theory he wouldn’t know if it bit him on his ‘Beauregard’ backside dares to lead with a glass jaw on the issue of racial truths in this country; he should be more concerned about having a good criminal lawyer on speed dial and checking how the color orange will look on him in the days to come. 

But, oh no, I can’t stop yet and end just on critical race theory and how it’s being bastardized by those of a certain ideology to their clawing for power. As there is another thread which connects all the patches of the American quilt together – voting rights.

The story of America is on a constant continuum, as is the perception and reality of equality and justice. 

One citizen’s free and fair election is another citizens’ submersion into a twisted quagmire of bamboo [23] fibers and table-spinning of ballots in an ass-backward carnival of a so called ‘audit’. 

Taint of the big lie didn’t cease the moment a new hand took an oath. The repercussions of what was done before, during and after the election cycle of 2020 is one which will haunt this nation for longer than this author and readers of this article shall exist.

In the present, along with a flurry of bills [24] attempting to restrict voting rights across the country, there are two pieces of legislation to strengthen voting rights that under debate in the Congress. First bill [25] is the For The People Act, which is a comprehensive bill to pre-empt various state voting and election laws. Second bill [26] is The John Lewis Voting Rights act which focuses solely on restoring and reinforcing the 1965 Civil Rights Act.

The first of the two bills has hit a roadblock to a speedy passage to becoming a law, because of a single-focused reverence of an obsolete senatorial procedure. And, the thing about it is, is that the lines of ideology are not even what this hold-up is in getting those two laws passed in the United States Senate.

Some people are clinging to the filibuster as if it were handed down from the mountaintop and treated as if it were some religious artifact or orthodoxy. To love a technical procedure which isn’t even in the Constitution over a human right reflects on a politician’s arrogant affection for their elected moniker of the moment. 

To those with the D after their name in the political class that have manifested the filibuster [27] as their lord and master, they better know that life is beyond the hallowed halls of the Congress and the stuffy backrooms of political contributors. Nobody and nothing happens in a vacuum. And, maybe just maybe when they come a’ callin’ to be re-elected those on the left might have amnesia of checking the box for them to stay in power. 

One needs to clear their mind of that cobweb of contradiction and get a perspective in the fresh air of seeing what is going on around them in this country. 

Just like Republicans, there are Democrats who are in the lane of ‘Lily Belle’ and ‘Beauregard’ who are the types of people who will always be fine; no matter if their constituents will be disenfranchised and diminished in the legal arena, as they too can preen for the spotlight with a smirk of similarity on their faces just like ‘Florida Man’. 

These men and women must choose which do they respect more; a technical procedure which has an odious lineage behind it or the blood, sweat, tears, and triumphant stride of citizens. Affection for an institution should not have more of a standing than the events that are occurring simultaneously to undermine voting rights protections. 

Yet, that distasteful brew of amnesia and anesthesia is churned again and again by the (once) Grand Old Party in need of proving their fidelity to a person no longer in the house of white. Yet, to me, sadly it seems because of that color’s classification and the perception all which it entails in the social order of political standing and power in this country, may be the last gasp of building an impenetrable wall of judicial and elected officials set in place as umpires of inequality based solely on a supremacist ideology. 

“Talk of brotherhood and “tolerance” (are we merely to “tolerate” one another?) might once have had a cooling effect, but increasingly it grates on the nerves. It evokes contempt not because the values of brotherhood are wrong–they are more important than ever–but because it just does not correspond to the reality [28] we see around us. And such talk does nothing to eliminate the inequalities that breed resentment and deep discontent.” – Bayard Rustin, civil and human rights activist

In fact, some who stand in the way of moving forward try to numb us into silence over the words and actions they take. I find this as an anesthetic effect. You know, it becomes a kind of fuselage of tossing so much stuff at the American citizens that at some point those in positions of power cross their fingers and hope they’ll slide through unscathed from scrutiny. 

Take for example something that should be a moment of unity in bringing us all together in recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. 

As the Juneteenth bill’s passage was on the verge of not getting unanimous consent in the United States Senate, one person who has been a hawker of the big lie and cradler of whacked out conspiracies finally gave his tepid blessing for it to be sent off for signing into federal law by President Biden. 

He is Republican Ron Johnson, Senator from Wisconsin. His amnesiac act over the insurrection of January 6th 2021 being recounted as the mob madness being just an overblown media story by the left-wing seems not out of the ordinary for him. But, his anesthetic arrogance over being on hand for this year’s Juneteenth celebration [29] in Wisconsin, as if the people’s senses have dulled and their memories were wiped clean, truly takes the rotten cake of this right-wing Senator.   

As I was doing the research for this article, one thing that I could not avoid was the thing about timing. Timing of history. Timing of action. Timing of reaction. Timing of injustice. Timing of recognition. Timing of justice. Timing of reckoning. History never stops, nor does the timing or vastness of the interconnections of the people of this country. 

“We need to advocate for an accurate history.” – Opal Lee, Grandmother Of The Juneteenth Movement 

Juneteenth 1865 (156 years ago)

Tulsa 1921 (100 years ago)

Emmett Till (65 years ago)

Medgar Evers (58 years ago)

Michael Schwerner,   James Chaney, Andrew Goodman (57 years ago)

George Floyd (1 year ago)

Juneteenth is a moment to celebrate, commemorate and give honor to the determination of the long journey to national recognition. But, as the years will pass by, my hope is that it doesn’t become transformed from a history learning exercise into some sort of diluted, advertising gimmick a la “Get Your Juneteenth Mattress On Sale at Manny’s Furniture Hideaway!” 

Happy Juneteenth! Remember it beyond a single day on a calendar.

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“Juneteenth: Long Time Coming (But, Is It Too Late?)”- Footnotes

(1)White House Briefing Room (Juneteenth National Independence Act) –

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/06/17/remarks-by-president-biden-at-signing-of-the-juneteenth-national-independence-day-act/

(2)Smithsonian Institution (Historical Legacy of Juneteenth) –

https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/historical-legacy-juneteenth

(3)Opal’s Walk to DC (Opal Lee) – 

https://www.opalswalk2dc.com/

(4)Shondaland (Ms. Opal Lee’s Juneteenth Dream) – 

https://www.shondaland.com/inspire/a21292179/ms-opal-lees-juneteenth-dream

(5)National Archives (Emancipation Proclamation) – 

https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/american_originals_iv/sections/preliminary_emancipation_proclamation.html#

(6)Smithsonian Institution (General Order 3) –

https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/historical-legacy-juneteenth

(7)University of Richmond (Arc of Justice) –  

https://as.richmond.edu/about-school/programs/conscience/arc-of-justice/index.html

(8)The King Institute (Drum Major Instinct) –

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/drum-major-instinct

(9)Black Wall Street (J.B. Stradford) –

http://blackwallstreet.org/jbstradford

(10)The Guardian (Viola Fletcher Speaks) – 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/19/viola-fletcher-tulsa-race-massacre-congress-oldest-survivor

(11)People Magazine (Tulsa Massacre Survivors): Hughes Van Ellis) –

https://people.com/human-interest/tulsa-race-massacre-survivors-in-their-own-words-100th-anniversary/

(12)The Guardian (Lessie Beddingfield Randle Testimony) –

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/19/viola-fletcher-tulsa-race-massacre-congress-oldest-survivor

(13)White House Briefing Room (Tulsa Anniversary) –

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/06/02/remarks-by-president-biden-commemorating-the-100th-anniversary-of-the-tulsa-race-massacre/

(14)Journal Record (Congressional Testimony of Tulsa Massacre Survivors) – 

Congress hears dramatic testimony from massacre survivors

(15)Military Times (Top Officer Schools Congressmen) –

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2021/06/23/the-militarys-top-officer-schools-congressmen-on-critical-race-theory-white-rage-and-communism/

(16)Salon (Defense Secretary Rips Matt Gaetz) – 

https://www.salon.com/2021/06/23/defense-secretary-rips-matt-gaetz-over-spurious-critical-race-theory-claims_partner/

(17)WESH (Matt Gaetz/Marjorie Taylor Greene America First Tour) –

https://www.wesh.com/article/congressman-matt-gaetz-makes-stop-in-the-villages-for-america-first-tour/36370250

(18)NPR (General Defends Studying Critical Race Theory) –

https://www.npr.org/2021/06/23/1009592838/top-general-defends-studying-critical-race-theory-in-the-military

(19)Strategic Studies (Carl Von Clausewitz) –

https://strategicstudiesteaching.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/cos-professional-reading-list-2011.pdf

(20)Foreign Policy (West Point Military Classics) –

Reading lists: The West Point history dept. selects its top 10 military classics

(21)Newsweek (Cruz Says Critical Race Theory Is Every Bit Racist As Klansmen In White Sheets) –

https://www.newsweek.com/ted-cruz-says-critical-race-theory-every-bit-racist-klansmen-white-sheets-1602105

(22)Teen Vogue (Matt Gaetz Frat Culture) –

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/matt-gaetz-scandal-frat-culture

(23)AP News (Arizona Election Recounts) –

https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-arizona-business-technology-election-recounts-c5948f1d2ecdff9e93d4aa27ba0c1315

(24)Brennan Center For Justice (Voting Laws Roundup) – 

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-may-2021

(25)U.S. Congress (For The People Act) –

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1

(26)U.S. Congress (John Lewis Voting Rights Act) –

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/4263

(27)NY Magazine (John Lewis Voting Rights Act) –

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/06/what-would-the-john-lewis-voting-rights-act-actually-do.html

(28)Black History Month (Bayard Rustin) – 

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/civil-rights-movement/bayard-rustin-gay-man-in-the-civil-rights-movement/

(29)Business Insider (Ron Johnson Heckled) –

https://www.businessinsider.com/senator-ron-johnson-heckled-during-juneteenth-speech-in-wisconsin-2021-6

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here: https://tonywarderotica.com/a-h-scott-dont-stop-the-dance/

Harvey Finkle: Faces of Courage

Harvey Finkle: Faces of Courage. Ten Years of Building Sanctuary
 

PRESS RELEASE:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” 
by Emma Lazarus, on the Statue of Liberty
 
On entering Sanctuary:  “Like my soul had returned to my body. 
That’s how my story in sanctuary began.” 
by Carmela Apolonia Hernandez, immigrant from Mexico
 
 
To All,
 
This timely publication, FACES OF COURAGE, highlighting the accomplishments of the New Sanctuary Movement at its 10th anniversary,  coincides with the best opportunity in decades for undocumented immigrants to argue their reasons for achieving asylum.
 
The  new guidelines, recently promulgated by the current administration, make asylum possible but not inevitable. And, at this moment, two families living in Sanctuary in Philadelphia have chosen to exit Sanctuary. New Sanctuary Movement’s effective support has given these two families the chance to give voice in their attempt to seek asylum.
 
In Solidarity,
Harvey Finkle, 
Photographer
 
 
*All royalties will benefit the New Sanctuary Movement
 
 
Please see the link below for more information and how to purchase the book in quality paperback or digital format.

Abby Harris: Get Vaccinated!

Get Vaccinated. Photo: Abby Harris, Copyright 2021
 

Photography and Text by Abby Harris, Copyright 2021

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Get Vaccinated!

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As the world slowly opens and things improve each day I wanted to highlight vaccination and the pandemic on campus. As we pass the one year mark of the pandemic impacting everyone’s lives, getting vaccinated is a simple way to protect yourself and help life return to normal. The joy and relief that come with being vaccinated is an effervescent feeling. I almost cried out of happiness and exhaustion when I received my first dose. Not only did I want to spread a message about getting vaccinated I also wanted to show off the happiness people experience once they are vaccinated.

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Get Vaccinated. Photo: Abby Harris, Copyright 2021

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Simple portraits outside with just my friends and their vaccination cards felt like the best way to display these feelings. The pandemic has been difficult to navigate while being away at college for all of us, but we have persevered and are hopefully close to the end. Being at college during the pandemic has been very isolating and lonely. We spend all day in our dorms on zoom and see each other only occasionally. This is why I chose to shoot each of my friends individually.

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Get Vaccinated. Photo: Abby Harris, Copyright 2021

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When I took these photographs I didn’t direct my friends at all besides asking them to hold the card. I think it is very powerful that in each person’s eyes you can see them smiling while holding their card proudly. Even though this past year has been horrible we are on track to being okay again. My friends and I are very lucky to be vaccinated. I hope everyone who is eligible right now goes out and gets vaccinated. The weight that gets lifted off your shoulders once you are vaccinated is enormous. Vaccines should be the least scary part of the entire pandemic, they save lives and help protect yourself and others. The sooner everyone gets vaccinated the sooner life can resume. 

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Self Portrait by Abby Harris, Copyright 2021

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About The Author: Abby Harris is a sophomore enrolled at Bryn Mawr College, Class of 2023. To access additional articles by Abby Harris, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/happier_than_ever/

 

Laila Ali: The White House Gate

Photo: Rosalind Solomon. The White House Gate.
 

Report by Laila Ali, Copyright 2012

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An Exploration: The White House Gate

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In this photograph report, I plan to examine a piece called the White House Gate created by Rosalind Solomon. I will start with the biography of the photographer, Rosalind Solomon. After, I will explain how print quality, print materials, and print size impacts the image of The White House Gates image. Then I will claim that The White House Gate image is best categorized as its dominant formal characteristics as defined in John Szarkowski’s book: The Photographer’s Eye the detail. Lastly, I will conclude with how the other components Szarkowski mentioned will shape the photograph. 

Rosalind Solomon: Biographical and Historical Context

Rosalind Fox Solomon was born on April 2 in 1930, at Highland Park, Illinois. She is an American artist, established in New York City, known for her portraits and connections to human suffering, ritual, and survival. Solomon attended Highland Park High School and graduated in 1947. She then attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1951. Then, Solomon got married and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. She then later divorced 63 years later after having two children. In 1968, Solomon began her photography work. She occasionally studied with Lisette Model, whose an Austrian-born American photographer primarily known for her frank humanism on her street photography from 1971 to 1977.  

Before Solomon started to get into photography, she became the Southern Regional Director of the Experiment in International Living. She visited communities throughout the Southern United States, where she recruited families to host international guests to build on cross-culture in a personal way. Through her volunteer work with the Experiment in International Living, Solomon got the opportunity to travel to Japan, where Solomon stayed with a family near Tokyo. Later, when Solomon was 38 years old, she began to use an Instamatic camera to convey her feelings and ideas, which was a turning point in her career and life experience in photography. 

In 1977 and 1978, Solomon moved to Washington where she photographed artists and politicians for her project series “Outside the White House”. Within this series, she photographed “The White House Gate”, the one I will later be exploring. This project lasted for about two years. Later on, in 1978, John Szarkowski included her work in the exhibition Mirrors and Windows at the Museum of Modern Art and presented examples from her Dolls and Mannequins series in the show. The use of dolls, children, and mannequins was some of the items she used as her subject. Also, Szarkowski selected 50 of her pictures to be part of the MoMA’s permanent collection. Her pictures appeared over the years in many different group exhibitions at the MoMA such as American Children, American Politicians, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, and The Original Copy: Sculpture in Photography 1839. Recently, the MoMA included her work in the anthology Photography at MoMA: 1960—Now, and curator, Peter Eleey, even dedicated a room to present her art pieces at MoMA PS1 in the Greater New York 2015 exhibition. Ultimately, this led to the rise of her as a photographer and the beginning of her work internationally like Peru, India, Germany, Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc.

Overall, Solomon’s work circulates between the personal and the universe as a whole. Her expertise is in her interpretation skill and the ability to take a snapshot of both social elements of the places she travels. In 2019, her artwork was recognized by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center for Photography. Over the past 45 years, Solomon has created inspirational work, presented in almost 30 solo exhibitions, about 100 group exhibitions, and in the collection of over 50 museums worldwide. 

Medium and Presentation

As mentioned, Solomon worked on the “Outside the White House” series. In this series, Solomon created a piece called “The White House Gate” in 1977. The photograph is present in the Jane Lutnick Fine Arts Center at Haverford College. This image is a gelatin silver bromide print. A gelatin silver print can be sharply defined and detailed based on the light sensitivity to the silver halides. Also, this type of print can last several hundred years. The picture has a strong negative, specifically on the gate, which is probably due to the silver chloride to darken the gates and make the gate pop in the image.

The dimension of the picture is 15” x 15” (38 cm by 38 cm). The photograph is generally a regular size. But, it’s over matted with a beveled-shaped edge around the image. So it allows the viewer to focus more on the White House gate. Overall, the purchase of the photograph was through a Patrons of Art gift in May 1986.

“The Detail” in The White House Gate

In the book, the Photographer’s Eye, John Szarkowski describes an overview of the fundamental difficulties and opportunities of the photographs. In the introduction of the book, he offers a brief historical overview of photography, specifically how photography has evolved over the years and how he views it as a unique characteristic. Szarkowski begins the book by stating that “the invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process- a process based not on synthesis but selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made-constructed from a storehouse of traditional schemes and skills and attitudes-but photographs, as the man on the street put it, were taken” (1). This led to the posed question – how can the process of photography be used in creating meaningful/significant pictures and valid art? In the book, Szarkowski argues that photography has a unique place within the broader world of artistic practice. Throughout the book, Szarkowski discusses and provides exemplar photographs of characteristics of the medium that is represented as a form of art but does not define discrete categories of artwork. He states five main characteristics: the thing itself, the detail, the frame, time, and vantage point that are important for the creation of eloquent photography.

According to The Photographer’s Eye, Szarowski would say that the photograph of the White House Gate would be a picture representing “the detail”. The idea of “the detail” photography connects to depicting reality and depicting reality as it happens, in front of the photographer. The photography can not really “pose the truth”, but can capture snippets of the truth as it unfolds. So, the photographer needs to be content with representing the details of a narrative or an event, rather than trying to represent the whole thing. 

In The White House Gate image, Solomon shows us different parts of the image. In the photograph, Solomon focuses on multiple details. One detail is the picture being taken in 1977 in front of the White House Gate at Washington, District of Columbia, US. The photograph displays the northwest gate of the White House during a snowstorm. The photograph shows that it was currently snowing as it was taken. In the picture, we see snowflakes falling as well as sticking to the gate and the ground. This detail informs the viewer of the time/season it occurred, which captured a fragment in depicting reality. 

Another fragment is the tire marks on the ground. The tire marks are emphasizing that a car must have recently entire the White House before Solomon took this picture. Or Solomon could have intentionally had a car drive into the White House before she took the picture. This is another fragment that part takes in bringing the whole picture together.

Lastly, the darkness of the gate of the White House is a vital detail for the narrative. The strong negative of the photograph helps bring viewer attention to the gate and what surrounds the gate. Ultimately, through all these different elements and details, Solomon is portraying a form of a statement. 

The Thing Itself, The Frame, Time, Vantage Point

In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski states that the first characteristic is the thing itself. The “thing itself” means that photography provides a representation of the real world. Photographers focus on divulging what already exists. In the White House Gate image, Rosalind Solomon emphasizes a place that already exists. Specifically,  that is very known to the US population and others around the world. But in the picture, she decided to center the image on the gate instead of the actual White House buildings itself. 

Next, the “frame” refers to the edge and the border between the elements of the real scene that the photographer decided to include, and what they decided not to include. Solomon chooses to focus the photograph on the frame, specifically on the White House gate when viewers first see the image. 

The fourth characteristic is “time” which provides the photographed location over time. Furthermore, the photographs can not directly represent the past or the future but can imply it. In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski mentions two ways that time exposure produces images and insight. The first one is long time exposure and, the second one is a short time exposure. In the White House Gate image, we see time play a role with the snow falling and car tire marks in the snow. The snow informs us of what season it currently was when the picture was taken; which was winter and, the time the picture was taken it was snowing.

Finally, Szarkowski identifies the “vantage point.” The vantage point is when the photograph shows us the world from a variety of unusual angles and perspectives, which can alter our perspective of the world. Solomon portrays the image of the White House gate through a unique vantage point that can allow viewers to interpret the image in many different ways.

Sources

Biography. Rosalind Fox Solomon, Accessed March 22, 2021,  www.rosalindfoxsolomon.com/bio

Rosalind Fox Solomon. (2021, January 30). Accessed March 22, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Fox_Solomon

White House Gate, Washington, D.C. (Getty Museum). (1977, January 01). Accessed April 04, 2021,  http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/128245/rosalind-solomon-white-house-gate-washington-dc-american-1977/

Szarkowski, John. The Photographer’s Eye. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009. 

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About The Author: Laila Ali is a junior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College. Class of 2022.

Faizah Khan: Lewis Hine-New York City from the Empire State Building

Photo: Lewis Hine
 

Essay by Faizah Khan

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Analysis on Lewis Wickes Hine

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Lewis Wickes Hines was born on September 26, 1874 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Although he grew up to study and become a sociologist, he is most remarkable for his later work in photography and its influence on child labor regulation. That said, much of Hines’ work is centered around the struggles of working class people. He was determined to advocate for them and bring about necessary change in order to improve their lives. By capturing powerful photographs of the work ethic of the lower class (through their actions or attire), Hines revealed the inequality and suffering that the working poor faced which consequently raised public awareness and pushed for social reform.

At an early age, Hines lost his father which forced him to quickly adopt jobs ranging from factory to sanitation services. This firsthand experience of working extensively long hours in dangerous working conditions would trigger Hines subsequent path towards advocating for hardworking American workers. Following his undergraduate studies, Hines was hired as a teacher where he taught students about studies related to botany. He was eventually assigned the role to be the school’s photographer which began his experience with photography. From a project that was initially assigned to his students, Hines took on the project himself and began photographing immigrants at Ellis Island in New York. Right from the start, Hines’ focus was concentrated in the struggles of various ethnic groups facing poverty. His early work in photography thus recorded photographs of immigrants, sweatshops, and tenements.

While Hines continued to pursue his education and eventually achieved his Masters in pedagogy from New York University, his work in photography continued. He was most passionate about changing the conditions that existed for child workers which is why he eventually quit his job as a teacher at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School to be an investigative photographer for the National Labor Committee. There, Hines was hired to capture images of children as young as seven working with dangerous machines in factories, mills, and mines. As committed as he was to this role, Hines had to conceal his intentions to the owners of these workplaces because many were against social reform. This forced Hines to portray himself as a salesman of some sort before entering the premises of where these children worked. In fear of being caught, Hines kept record of the children he interacted with as he would secretly record notes in his pocket and measure their heights by the buttons of his coat. It was clear that for Hines, photography was more than just art. Photography served as a tool in educating the public and spreading awareness about the issues of society. As such, his photographs moved his audience so emotionally that his work contributed to the result of the government enforcing child labor protection laws.

Hines’ journey in photography continued as his work allowed him to travel to Europe and work alongside the RedCross to photograph scenes from World War I. After this mission, Hines continued to document scenes depicting living conditions in a rapidly growing industrial society. He eventually moved back to New York where he was offered the opportunity to photograph the Empire State Building‒‒the tallest building in the world at the time. Stories of Hines being suspended up on a crane reveal how challenging yet exhilarating such an opportunity was. While Hines had much of a successful career in photography and brought about the changes he had hoped, much of his work would have been forgotten if not for Berenice Abbott and Elizabeth McCausland, who showcased his work just before his death.

In the Lutnick Fine Arts Center, one of Hines’ photographs related to the Empire State Building project is hung in the gallery. The photograph itself captures the rungs of a crane with the view of Manhattan’s landscape in the far background. I was drawn to this image because being born and raised in New York City, I had a particular affinity for pictures of buildings and skyscrapers. For me, it gave me a sense of home and familiarity. Pictures of New York in the 1930s is also always very exciting to see because the landscape was rapidly changing into a more urbanized setting and to be able to capture such a moment is historically relevant. The fact that Hines was actually capturing these photographs amid the Empire State Building being constructed conveys how quickly New York’s landscape was changing.

After learning about Hines’ backstory with photography and his prior experience, his portfolio that showcases a lifetime of his work began to make sense. However, the photograph displayed in Lutnick is interesting because in Hines’ portfolio of the construction of the Empire State Building, most of the images consist of hard working men working on dangerously elevated cranes. Such images depict the dedication and excitement of the construction of the then world’s tallest building to exist. The men who helped construct the building, whom Hines photographed, were also featured in Hines’ book called Working Men. In contrast to these photographs of men at work, the photograph described in this section depicts a quiet scene of Manhattan from the view of the Empire State.

Upon my initial observation, I noticed that the photograph was over matted and that the photograph was much smaller in comparison to the overall size of the frame. The empty space that surrounded the image forced me to look closer and analyze the photograph for its details a lot more as well. The photograph appeared to be a scenic landscape of Manhattan. Given the dark skies and bright lights shining from the buildings, I was convinced that the image was shot during the nighttime. As such, this image differentiates itself from Hines’ related photographs since it does not capture any working men but rather, it captures a breathtaking view of the city. Such a photograph appeals to me because it encapsulates busy city life amid the dark.

The reason why I was intrigued by this photo was because I was curious as to how Hines was able to capture such a shot. My first guess was that Hines situated himself to have a high vantage point to be able to capture what I believed was a bridge at first. However, I now know that Hines must have been suspended on a crane due to the construction. I imagine that Hines had a low vantage point as his shots capture the foreground of the scene like the crane that presents itself very apparently, in contrast to the huge landscape before him. He must have used a wide angle lens which, paired with a low vantage point, allowed him to capture a scene that was captivating and awe-inspiring.

An observation of Hines’ photograph, and for most of his images as well, reveal his use of a very shallow depth of field. In the photograph, the body of the crane is a lot clearer than the landscape in the background. Hines must have used a wide angle lens and aperture to capture more light and a fast shutter speed to achieve such a shallow depth of field without blur of any hand movement. In a general perspective, most of his portraits, whether it is of working men or children, seem to embrace this kind of depth. Such an aesthetic choice allows the observer to take in more of the details of the person in the photograph, rather than the background which still remains relevant, but only ever so slightly in comparison to the main focus of the portrait.

The photograph displayed in the art gallery was printed in gelatin silver. In other words, the image consists of silver metal that was suspended in a gelatin layer. Considering that it was the first time bromide and silver were combined in one solution to develop light sensitive material, this invention radically changed photography as it allowed photographers to expose plates and develop them days or weeks later. In doing so, photography became more accessible for anyone to participate in throughout the 20th century. Consequently, it is no surprise that Hines used this technique to develop his prints since it was very popular at the time.

In a broader context, the invention contributed to the modern day processing of analog film photography. The gelatin silver process begins with the paper itself, which consists of an emulsion layer that contains bromide, silver nitrate, and gelatin. The prints are then developed since the photograph is only visible after being submerged and agitated in a chemical bath. The way that Hines developed his photos indicate very little visible grain with high resolution. As mentioned, the quality of the photograph is very clear and focused. This overall aesthetic makes the image look very sleek and sophisticated. Such technique in Hines’ work allowed him to capture the breadth of a range of groups, from European immigrants to American workers. Recognizing that his camera had the power to spread a message across the country, Hines utilized his skills in photography to expose harsh conditions that existed and needed to be addressed by social reform.

Lewis Hines redefined how photography could be used as an instrument to advocate for social injustice. Through his photographs, he swayed the hearts of the public which inevitably influenced laws in place to change. His work that captures working men and children, immigrants, and soldiers not only reflect a consistent theme throughout his career as a photographer, but it reveals his commitment to sharing the lives of working class people who often go unnoticed in society. Due to his efforts, he was able to share their unique stories to a wide audience and contribute to social change.

 

Citations

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Lewis Hine”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Oct. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lewis-W-Hine. Accessed 29 March 2021.

Cycleback, David Rudd. Cycleback.com: Guide to Identifying Photographs: Gelatin SILVER PRINTS. 2003, www.cycleback.com/photoguide/gelatin.html.

Mussio, Gina. Lewis Hine: How Photography ENDED Child Labour in the USA. 29 Aug. 2014, theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/wisconsin/articles/lewis-hine-how-photography-ended-chil d-labour-in-the-usa/.

Museum, George Eastman, and George Eastman Museum. “The Gelatin Silver Process (10 of 12).” Smarthistory, smarthistory.org/the-gelatin-silver-process-10-of-12/.

“Lewis Hine.” International Photography Hall of Fame, iphf.org/inductees/lewis-hine/.

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About The Author: Faizah Khan is a sophomore enrolled at Haverford College.  Class of 2023